In a gallery of maritime paintings at the Legion of Honor, individual 17th-century works — views of glassy, glowing surfaces of the sea, bright billowing clouds and huge sails soaring to the sky — seem to come from the same eyes and hands. It is possible to get lost in these kindred but varied images.Yet other galleries feature still lifes, landscapes, history paintings and depictions of everyday life in the 1600s. Read More
Beautiful small music is at the core of Music@Menlo, a large chamber-music festival which has become a nationally famous series featuring hundreds of performances, events and educational activities.On the first program of the three-week-long festival in Menlo Park and Atherton last weekend, among simple, quiet masterpieces from the 19th century, the magical “night music” of a Schubert Notturno went directly to the heart. Read More
Music of all sorts, literature and art are in focus at the 31st San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, running today through Aug. 8.Topics include the staging of a Viennese operetta by war prisoners on their way to a concentration camp; a film based on David Grossman’s novel about a 12-year-old who stops growing; the great Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem; a documentary about architect Eric Mendelsohn; and the affecting journey of cantors to perform in various Polish venues, including the Warsaw Opera House. Read More
From the opening concert and dinner at the Darioush Winery last weekend to the sold-out closing night July 24 at Cardinale Winery, the sixth annual Festival del Sole offers a dizzying variety of Napa Valley’s most spectacular scenery and world-famous wines.
Richard Walker, the Marin attorney who is the co-founder and head of the festival, waxes poetic about the event. Read More
During the next month, there will be numerous opportunities to hear “future stars of opera” at performances by participants in the Merola Program.That monicker about stars has been routinely applied to the young artists almost since the beginning of this pathbreaking training program, started in 1954, and named in 1957 after Gaetano Merola, founder of the San Francisco Opera. Read More
San Francisco Symphony’s celebrations of its 100th birthday began in earnest this week with the publication of a luxurious hardback: the meaty coffee-table book “Music for a City, Music for the World.”
Written by Larry Rothe, the story of orchestra begins with the apocalyptic drama of the Great Quake, a mere five years before the birth of SFS in December 1911:
“It started with the end of the world. The earthquake of 1906 destroyed one San Francisco and gave birth to another, also to a new orchestra — aimed at revitalizing the city’s cultural life.” Read More
In the Bay Area’s low-income areas, there’s only one organization that guides financially deprived teenagers toward college without exception. It’s done with music and the passionate participation of such world-famous artists as mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade.
The Young Musicians Program, headed by Daisy Newman, only admits students whose family income is low enough to qualify for financial assistance, and yet for 22 consecutive years, 100 percent of the YMP graduating classes went to college. Read More
Michael Francis, who conducts the San Francisco Symphony’s summer concerts, has unusual distinctions among maestros of the podium: a double-bass player, his career so far consisted of a series of sudden substitutions.He also is young, but that’s less unusual these days with Alexander Prior, 18, at the Seattle Symphony and Lionel Bruingier, 25, an assistant in Los Angeles to Gustavo Dudamel, who made his own professional debut at 24.In Francis’ case, young age is combined with an instrument unusual for a conductor, and his run of luck as a pinch hitter. Read More
The availability of $10 standing-room tickets to San Francisco Opera’s “The Ring of the Nibelung” reminds those who feel they can’t afford classical music that where there is a yearning, there is a path. The Bay Area is ripe with free musical events — even in summer, when the main supplier, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, is not in session. Here are a few options: Read More
Similar in grandeur and majesty, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and “Missa Solemnis” (Solemn Mass), both from 1824, are virtually at opposite ends of the composer’s hit parade. The Ninth is performed constantly, but the Mass comes along once or twice in an orchestra’s lifetime.
The 80-minute work demands a full orchestra, large chorus and epxert vocal and instrumental soloists.
Even after nearly two centuries, Beethoven’s innovations with harmonies and tempos are daunting. Read More
When San Francisco Opera completed the first of three cycles of Richard Wagner’s 17-hour marathon “The Ring of the Nibelung” on Sunday, size was just one of the thrills for the audience of 14,000 filling the War Memorial during the four-day event.
The huge orchestra, under Donald Runnicles’ superb direction; the big casts of great singers; the length and breadth of four productions costing up to $24 million; the complex organization and the years of preparation, relentless work and unceasing effort were just part of the story. Read More
In addition to music festivals in The City, events in attractive locations such as Napa and Santa Cruz encourage combining two fine traditional seasonal activities — day trips and concert-going in casual attire, in informal settings. Note: Summer ticket prices often are cheaper than those in fall and winter.
Summer and the Symphony
San Francisco Symphony’s summer series typically emphasizes pops and “light classics,” but numerous events will appeal to those of longer hair as well. Read More
Pablo Picasso, the most recognized name in modern art, is the subject of a big, fabulously varied exhibit that opened Saturday at the de Young Museum, where his art, rather than his fame, is featured.
“Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris” ignores the artist’s “biography and mythology,” says Fine Arts Museums director John E. Buchanan Jr. Instead, it’s a rich retrospective of Picasso’s work featuring 150 paintings, drawings and sculpture. Read More
Stephen Sondheim’s 1990 “Assassins” is a uniquely bizarre musical about plots against presidents, from John Wilkes Booth on. It highlights the dark side of the American dream for fame and success, and does so with black humor that skirts the uncomfortable. For those brave enough to produce the play, it is a huge challenge.Over the weekend, one of San Francisco’s small, adventurous and excellent theater companies, 10-year-old Ray of Light Theatre, opened a brilliant production of “Assassins” at the Eureka Theatre. Read More
The world ended well, after all.Sunday’s premiere of Francesca Zambello’s San Francisco Opera production of Richard Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung” (“Twilight of the Gods”) concluded with the rapturous Redemption Theme soaring from the orchestra pit, under Donald Runnicles’ baton, and not much else mattered at that moment.On an otherwise empty stage (thank goodness for no symbolic trash strewn about), Brünnhilde (Nina Stemme), Gutrune (Melissa Citro) and the three Rhine Maidens surrounded Siegfried’s body (Ian Storey) in long dresses — a tableau reminiscent of Greek drama. Read More